Port apartment building plan draws fire from upset neighbors

Residents object to size of four-story complex but council OKs rezoning
Ozaukee Press staff

A proposed 90-unit apartment building that would be constructed on Port Washington’s west side with about a dozen units set aside for adults with disabilities met with opposition from some neighbors Tuesday night.

Those neighbors told the Common Council that they believe the building is too large for the area and would bring too much traffic and density.

They questioned what “market rate” apartments would mean for their area and said they would prefer the property, 6-1/2 acres north of the intersection of highways 33 and LL, be set aside for the new fire station instead.

“It’s just way too big for that corner,” said Kathy Borisch, 1637 Aster St. “I think the fire department would be a better idea.”

Following a public hearing, aldermen voted 6-1 to rezone the property at 351 N. Heritage Rd., also known as Highway LL, to accommodate the apartments.

Ald. Jonathan Pleitner, who represents that area of the city, cast the lone dissenting vote. While he said he supported a previous plan for the property, which would have consisted of a 69-unit building with units reserved for people with autism, he said the current proposal is too dense for the area.

“I think it’s too much for that space,” he said, adding that he might be pursuaded to change his mind if more units were reserved for people with disabilities. “I think the project originally was good. I can’t support this with 90 units.”

The four-story building would be constructed by Cardinal Capital Management on the northeast corner of a 6-1/2 acre lot off Highway LL and north of Highway 33. The site amenities in the previous plan, including walking trails, green spaces and gardens that would buffer the building from the neighborhood to the west, will remain the same.

“I find it completely out of character with the neighboring subdivisions,” Andrea Jushka, 673 Evergreen Ter., said. “It just does not fit.”

She said she is also concerned that Cardinal Capital is describing the apartments as “market rate,” saying she feared that if the company does not get the rents it projects, it could turn the building into low-income or even subsidized housing.

Many apartments in the community are vacant, she said, adding she prefers the land be reserved for a new fire station.

Approving apartments before the fire station issue is dealt with would be “reckless,” Jushka said, adding, “only one of these belongs on this property, and that’s the firehouse.”

Kendel Feilen, 648 Evergreen Ter., told aldermen that even the original plan was too dense for the neighborhood.

He said he was also concerned about the increased traffic, especially given the nearby roundabout.

While Ald. Mike Gasper, a traffic engineer, said the roundabout is designed for far more traffic than it gets and isn’t a concern, Feilen disagreed.

Architect Ali Kopyt of Korb & Associates told aldermen that the building would be 305 and 290 feet from the nearest houses, and about as tall as the hill to the west.

The natural features of the site, including numerous wetlands and the wooded hill, will be retained and enhanced with trails, she said.

The building would run north and south, with a bend in the center that’s intended to break up the length of the structure.

There would be underground parking, as well as a parking lot that would be shared with a service center that’s expected to be built next to the apartments.

That center would likely include services such as occupational and physical therapy, a visiting nurse and a couple exam rooms, and would also serve as a community center.

The zoning change was needed to accommodate the service center and allow Cardinal to construct fewer parking places than the code requires, officials said, noting Cardinal wants to increase the green space in its parking lot and doesn’t believe it needs as many spots as required because many of the adults with disabilities won’t have vehicles.

Although Cardinal only expects to reserve about 12 units for people with disabilities, she said, virtually every one of the one and two-bedroom apartments has the ability to be used by these tenants.

The projected rents range from $1,100 to $1,400 a month, Bob McCormick, a representative of Cardinal Capital, told the council.

Kären Cohen of Balance, Inc., which works with adults with disabilities and would partner with Cardinal on the project, said the melding of units for people with and without disabilites is unique.

“This is on the cusp of being a national model,” she said. “When you create an intentional community ... it takes a lot of planning.”

Ald. Mike Ehrlich praised the plan.

“I think you have been extremely sensitive to the surrounding neighborhood,” he said, adding that a location near a connector street is ideal for this type of project. “They’ve done a nice job of fitting this in. The height isn’t going to be much of an issue, especially since you’re keeping all these trees. It creates a nice buffer.

“I think this is a great spot for it.”


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